A Genealogist Looks Beyond the Usual

Our RecordClick genealogist has used professional journals to uncover ancestry information. She finds that when you are off the beaten track, sometimes there is an amazing source right there in front of you.

This RecordClick genealogist delights in finding nuggets or even treasure troves of information in odd places. As a comedian once said, “You never know…”

So, this genealogist has to say that the Quarterly Journal of Economics was never on my top ten list. I didn’t even know there was such a publication. And I definitely didn’t expect to find a biography in it.

But there it was– in the January 1887 (Vol. 1 No. 2) issue.

My last genealogy research blog was about unions. In that blog, I included a bit of the history of unions in the United States and I included some suggestions for the genealogist for using union records in ancestry research.

In my research for that blog, I found that one of the first unions was the Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor and that its founding fathers were Uriah S. Stephens. He served from 1869 to 1879 as the first Grand Master Workman of the organization.

In that Quarterly Journal of Economics from January 1887 (Vol. 1 No. 2. pages 139-140), the article by author, Carroll D. Wright was about the union and then covered the background of Uriah S. Stephens.

The logo from a professional journal that a genealogist used for the ancestry search.

The logo from a professional journal that a genealogist used for the ancestry search.

An excerpt includes:

Stephens was born August 3, 1821 in Cape May County, New Jersey. His grandfather on his father’s side having fallen in one of the battles of the Revolution. The maternal side, also among the earliest settlers of the county, were Quakers… His parents, who were Baptists, intended him for the ministry… but in the great panic and depression which swept over this country from 1836 to 1840, the family suffered reverses, and young Stephens was indentured as an apprentice, to learn a trade and acquire knowledge of the mercantile business… In 1845, he removed to Philadelphia where he resided most of the time during his life…”

This genealogist checked the basic genealogical information by taking a look at the related census records. In the 1880 U.S. census, Uriah is listed as living at 2347 east side of Coral Street.

The family:

  • Uriah S. 59          Shoe cutter        NJ           NJ           NJ
  • Mary A. 58          Wife                     NJ           NJ           NJ
  • Mary E. 31           Daughter             PA          NJ           NJ
  • George W. 28     Son                        PA          NJ           NJ
  • Ellie E. 19            Daughter             PA          NJ           NJ
  • Carrie P. 16         Daughter             PA          NJ           NJ

Uriah’s occupation isn’t listed in the 1870 census. In both 1850 and 1860, he was listed as a tailor and he is listed as a tailor on his death certificate. The neighborhood the Stephens family lived in had many craftsmen – a blacksmith, wheelwright, piano maker, lamp maker, cabinetmaker and silversmith. Unions and economics have a lot to do with each other and all of these are occupations that most likely were receptive to the union movement. For a genealogist, these historical details are always a welcome surprise.

One other item of note: the article, although considered a secondary source, was from an 1887 issue of the publication and was written close to the time when Uriah Stephens was living. There may be inaccuracies, but this genealogist respects this source as a well-researched, scholarly work.

There are many professional journals. Even though most deal with topics that aren’t regular sources for the genealogist, these journals must be considered as potential good sources for ancestry information.

This genealogist located the Quarterly Journal of Economics article on a website called JSTOR, which is identified as a “digital library of academic journals, books and primary resources and includes archival collections containing back issues of more than 1,500 scholarly journals across 50 disciplines.”

Journals. Professional records. All of these are off-the-beaten-track sources. The creative genealogist will always find new ways to stay open to learning something new. The genealogist takes the time and is open to new places–whether or not it appears at first to be related to the genealogy search.

When you hire a genealogist at RecordClick, we help you learn more about your ancestors from all types of sources and we always find wonderful and unique elements of your family’s history.

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